Treatable cause of high blood pressure is often ignored

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Half of all Americans have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, and many don’t even know they have it.

High blood pressure develops when blood flows through your arteries at higher-than-normal pressures.

In a recent study from Michigan Medicine, scientists found a chicken-or-the-egg scenario in blood pressure management:

Testing for a disease that’s linked to difficult-to-control blood pressure isn’t happening, possibly because providers think it’s rare or unwieldy, but if more people were tested, experts say we’d discover it’s not rare at all.

In the study, researchers reviewed data from military veterans diagnosed with treatment-resistant hypertension at a Veterans Health Administration facility between 2000 and 2017.

They found that fewer than 2% of the people who should’ve been evaluated for primary aldosteronism were tested.

Primary aldosteronism is a hormonal disorder that leads to high blood pressure. It occurs when the adrenal glands produce too much of a hormone called aldosterone.

The chances of receiving a needed evaluation were higher when the patient also saw a specialist such as a nephrologist or an endocrinologist discuss their high blood pressure.

There’s an educational gap there where some physicians may think it’s too complicated to test people for this, or don’t know they should be thinking about testing people, the team says.

The current estimates suggest that around 20% of people with uncontrolled high blood pressure despite taking three blood pressure medications may actually be struggling with this treatable disorder.

Management of primary aldosteronism depends on the type diagnosed and may include medications to block the effect of aldosterone in the adrenal gland, or surgery to remove one of the two adrenal glands.

In addition to encouraging conversations with specialists when dealing with uncontrolled blood pressure, the researchers suggest exploring technology to help solve this problem.

That could include an automatic alert prompted in patients’ electronic health records when they meet conditions to warrant an evaluation for primary aldosteronism.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies that black licorice could cause dangerous high blood pressure, and this common plant nutrient could help reduce high blood pressure.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies that Marijuana may strongly increase death risk in high blood pressure, and results showing unsalted tomato juice may help reduce blood pressure and heart disease risk.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and conducted by J. Brian Byrd et al.

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